In a patented Thomas Voeckler move, the French National Champion attacked, solo, while the others were playing cat and mouse on the final uphill kilometer to the finish line. He was able to hold it for the win, double-checking multiple times behind him and even taking the time to throw kisses to the crowd at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec. After he crossed the line, he shook his head as if he couldn’t believe it and had a big smile.
“I am truly happy. I wanted to well in the final races of the season. I wasn’t a model of discipline since the Tour de France, I didn’t have a healthy lifestyle. I won because I wasn’t that strong, if not I would probably have attacked with two laps to go.” Voeckler commented, with a non stop smile. “I didn’t have good legs but enough maybe to finish in the first 40,50 but from there to win, it was inconceivable and yet. That last straightaway was the longest straightaway of my career. Winning here in Quebec brings me great joy. I was supported all along the course and I am proud to offer this victory to all my supporters.”
One second later, Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Team Sky) won the sprint for second ahead of Robert Gesink (Rabobank).
Voeckler predicted it almost perfectly at the pre-race press conference a few days earlier. The goal for the team, being a Pro Continental team and in his words “not the strongest” was to take advantage of the work done by the other teams. That’s exactly what he did, to everyone’s surprise including himself as he was not the protected rider on the team, it was his teammate Cyril Gauthier.
Voeckler was part of a select chase group that hunted down a dangerous late-race break with Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), Fabian Wegmann (Milram), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank). Hesjedal put in the majority of the work to try and stay away but the break was reeled in with 1.5 km to go and the cat and mouse games started. Voeckler, who had admitted to not having good form a few days earlier, watched and timed his attack perfectly to claim the victory in the inaugural ProTour race.
“We did 15 laps so you have time to analyze the course and during the day I told my teammate Cyril Gauthier, who was the protected rider, that to win you had to attack just before the final right turn in front of the hotel because we had just climbed the kicker and the sprinters would be without teammates to lead them. So I did it, and immediately I got a gap that I was able to hold.” Voeckler explained.
Strongest man in the race, Hesjedal finished fourth making him the Top Canadian. Throughout the course, and while he was on the podium, chants of ‘Ryder, Ryder’ could be heard.
“I was definitely looking to stand on the podium, maybe the top step. I think I came close, I did what I could in the end to make the race, to make it hard and give myself an opportunity. I’m happy, the crowds were amazing, a great day, disappointing but really happy.” Hesjedal said.
ProTour Race Recipe. The race followed the ProTour scenario described by Dominique Rollin (Team Canada p/b SpiderTech), early break, peloton sleeps until one team ratchets up the pace, “race pace, infernal pace, intolerable pace”.
It didn’t take long for that early break to go. With the peloton stretched out, the elastic broke at the bottom of the Gilmour descent at 5 kilometer into the first 12.6-km lap. Six riders were off and would be joined by another 7 to make it 13 off the front. In the break were two Radioshack riders, Markel Irizar and Yaroslav Popovych, two Liquigas teammates, Valerio Agnoli and Elia Viviani and Bram Tankink (Rabobank), Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step), Jakob Fuglsang (SaxoBank), Jussi Veikkanan (FDJ), Sebastien Turgot (Bbox), Alfredo Balloni (Lampre), Dominik Nerz (Milram), Julien Fouchard (Cofidis) and François Parisien (Team Canada).
The peloton liked the combination and was happy to let them go. Lap after lap, Fuglsang collected points with each ascent of the côte de la Montagne, a 375 m climb with a 10% grade, to secure the best climber’s classification. Meanwhile, Team Sky and Euskatel-Euskadi put a rider at the front of the field to control the gap, which hovered at around 3:30, only once going over 4 minutes. As the race continued, Caisse d’Epargne also added a rider in the rotation.
Everyone in the break was taking pulls, well everyone but one. “We found ourselves in a break with two Liquigas riders and one wasn’t working.” Parisien explained. “I don’t know why but on the tenth lap they attacked even though we still had 2:30. They took me by surprise and when they accelerated, he was fresh and it went hard.”
Parisien and five others were dropped with Agnoli, Tankink, Van de Walle, Fuglsang, Balloni, Nerz and Irizar continuing on at the front. The gap started to come down with more teams putting in riders at the front, BMC, HTC-Columbia went into the rotation with Euskatel, Sky and Caisse d’Epargne. With 3 to go, it was down to 35 seconds.
Ratchet up the pace. As the peloton was on the straightaway to the start/finish line at the end of lap 13 with the break only seconds away, a crash took down George Hincapie (BMC), Janez Brakjovic (Radioshack) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step). After getting up and riding a few meters, Hincapie stopped and waited for a bike change. By the time he got back on a new bike, the peloton was long gone.
While confusion reigned at the back, Fuglsang remained in the front with Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) but not for long.
The second to last time up the steep climb, Hesjedal put in a blistering attack. “I put it in the big chainring the last two laps of the hardest climb. I felt good, decided to give a big effort and I had the legs to do that.”
Four were off with Gesink bridging up a kilometer later. “Just before the last lap, Ryder went really fast on the climb, I just couldn’t stay with him so four guys went away. The last time crossing the finish, I bridged the gap and I was happy to be there in front but I was already pretty tired.”
Everyone did what they could with Hesjedal putting in the bulk of the work in the 5-rider break. “Damiano and Robert were in it to win the race too, they worked well. I think Fabian did the work he could do. I was hopeful that it would be a bigger selection when I attacked second to last climb but that’s the way it goes, I put in a good move.” Hesjedal said.
“Wegmann was cramping we were trying but the wind was really hard along the road by the water. From the back, the guys came back. It was a big group, they were working hard together and it came back.” Gesink said.
The late escapees were caught and a lead group of around 20 riders made its way the final time up the Côte de la Montagne. The favorites were watching each other, and no one was watching Voeckler.
“That hesitation from other riders, at that point I was pretty on the limit from what it took to get to that moment. The last thing I was going to do was to go again inside 500 meters.” said Hesjedal.
“The team did a really good job to control the race during the whole day. I was hurting so really thankful for all the help today. I couldn’t close down to the rider ahead. I hoped that the riders that had two or more riders would do the work, I had to try to dig hard. I got second place, I’m happy with that, of course I would have liked to win for all the work the team did. ” Boasson Hagen said.
“I was actually surprised to be able to sprint for third in this race, for me it was a really big surprise I’m quite happy.” Gesink concluded.
Top 10 Results
1. Thomas Voeckler (Bbox-Bouygues Telecom) 4:35:27
2. Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Team Sky) +00:01
3. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) +00:01
4. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) +00:01
5. Staf Scheirlinckx (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +00:01
6. Alessandro Ballan (BMC) +00:01
7. Fabian Wegmann (Milram) +00:01
8. Maxime Monfort (HTC-Columbia) +00:01
9. Francesco Reda (Quick Step) +00:01
10. Damiano Cunego (Lampre Farnese-Vini) +00:01